The Winter 2014 Anime Preview Guide D-Frag!
Jan 7th 2014
Review:With every season comes another wacky-girls-in-a-club anime, and while D-Frag! doesn't quite hit every checklist in the cliché box, it's not exactly original either. The question is, whether or not it has enough shards of novelty—and executes them well enough—to be worth the time. For now, it's a shaky "yes, maybe."
The show follows the tries-too-hard-to-be-wacky adventures of the Game Creation Club, an afterschool club of try-too-hard-to-be-quirky girls. Sadly, their club is on the verge of being shut down, unless they manage to recruit one more member. Enter Kenji Kazama, a well-meaning dude who wants to be a delinquent with his buddies, but is just a little bit too nice. By accident, he and his friends find themselves the target of the club's hijinks, whose quirk-of-the-week infatuation with RPGs makes them believe they have elemental types—only instead of actually having magic powers, one girl's lightning powers involve a stun gun, one girl's water powers involve forcing people to chug a large bottle of water, and another's powers of "darkness" largely include heavy curtains and bags over her captors' heads. It's all amusing to a point, but feels a bit forced. When the characters aren't engaged in exaggerated slapstick, the characters are cracking jokes, resulting in an exhaustive circus that seemingly never ends.
It certainly doesn't help that none of the characters are really interesting or notable. We learn that one of the club members is the student body president, but beyond the initial, "Ain't that wacky???" all it serves is to introduce a hackneyed rivalry between her and the current vice president, who just so happens to be childhood pals with Kenji and his friends. Beyond that, the default personality trait for each girl is simply "weird," as though that alone is enough to carry a series.
Perhaps as we get to know the girls more, we may find that they're slightly more three-dimensional than their stock role as hijink-inducers, but so far, the first episode doesn't give any indication of such. The absurdity in which the girls embrace their elementals is certainly enough to make anyone laugh, but it's a joke that can only be used successfully once. Until a few more episodes are out, though, it's anyone's guess as to how this series will progress. For now, the first episode is merely "okay."
D-Frag! is available streaming at Funimation.com.
Review: Yet another anime comedy with a nonsensical title bearing no resemblance to its actual content, D-Frag! is not about a high school Tech Support Club, which might be somewhat unique, but yet another w-w-wacky comedy about a club full of cute girls that does nothing all day! (See also, Going Home Club, Haganai, GJ-bu, or any other large number of similar shows.) The Game Creation Club, a group of do-nothing nerdy girls who play board games and card games after school, is getting called on their nothing-doing and must recruit a new member inside of one day to keep their clubroom. They target Kenji Kazama, the school's biggest delinquent, and comically (?) threaten him with violence and thinly veiled Pokemon references until he agrees to join their club. It can be reasonably assumed that hijinks and cuh-raaaay-zeee reactions! to the girls' complete lack of common sense will ensue!
Shows like this are a dime a dozen, and it's hard to avoid simply comparing them to one another in lieu of any other critique. (D-Frag plays most like a combination between GJ-bu and Baka n' Test, for what it's worth.) It's an alright-looking show, and plays up its self-perceived wackiness heavily with lots of colorful overreactions and quick jumps from joke to joke with very little breathing room, which can be good or bad depending on how funny you think the whole thing is. To be completely honest, I didn't laugh or even smile once and found the whole experience extremely annoying and hacky, but I may just be more curmudgeonly in this regard. As anime comedies go, it's not overwhelmingly cheap, lame, or repulsive. It doesn't merit damning scorn, it just sort of exists and if you find it funny, you've a more sensitive funny bone than I, more power to you.
It's real familiar territory, and certainly not hilarious or standout, but D-Frag! is confident in its own sense of humor, cobbled from several other shows like it, and it may be a perfectly decent placeholder comedy if nothing better pops up this season in its genre. But considering how many shows like this exist, watching something from the past you haven't gotten around to yet might be just as rewarding.
D-Frag! is available streaming at Funimation.com.
Rating: 2.5 (out of 5)
Kenji leads a gang of three delinquents who overshadow him. Roka is the president of a game creation club on the verge of extinction due to a lack of members. Ostensibly the two groups will merge, and part of this first episode is in fact devoted to that very concept...so what's the rest of it about? Good question, actually. D-Frag seems caught between wanting to be a wacky school club story and a knock-off of Daily Lives of High School Boys, and the resulting episode is not precisely a mess, but also not exactly a cohesive narrative either.
The episode begins with adorable little Roka trying to recruit new members for the Game Creation Club. She drops some fliers, rough(ish) looking Kenji picks them up, and we know that destiny is at work. Kenji is the delinquent with a heart of gold, Roka is the girl who is darker than she appears, and the two go head-to-head as she tries to get him to join her club. This is actually the funniest part of the episode, with Roka trying to use her Moe Moe Powers on the surprisingly resistant Ken-chan and all of the club members announcing their elemental powers and proceeding to use them: so water has a bottle of water, electricity has a taser, and earth covers her hands in dirt. It's a fun play on RPG and fantasy types, and Kenji's terrified bafflement works for the humor. Unfortunately after he agrees to join the show decides to focus on how crazy one of the other club members is and how their childhood pal Atsuru has a rivalry with her because she's student body president and he's only vice-president. Silly hijinks about spying on locker rooms and throwing lockers out of windows ensue, and it's just not as amusing as the other half. Add in the mostly cookie cutter character designs for almost all of the characters (one of the boys escapes) and animation that uses a lot of stills for emphasis (or ease) and this is just kind of fun and not much beyond that.
Really Roka is the best part of this introductory episode, with her triple powers (one of which does a lot for the humor factor) and inner cool personality. Watching her play Kenji while her club members run around like loons is fun, and if the show can emphasize her over the other girls, there's some potential.
D-Frag is available streaming at Funimation.
Review: You know this one: A club full of quirky girls is in danger of being shut down for lack of members. Desperate, they shanghai a guy into joining. Hijinks ensue. From that unspeakably dull premise, D-Frag somehow manages to fashion a thoroughly fun comedy. Black magic? A pact with Satan? Alchemy? No. Even weirder. Enjoyable characters and a working knowledge of humor. Behold the power of basic competence!
To give screenwriter Makoto Uezu his due, there's some comic inspiration mixed in there too—he didn't write for Is This a Zombie? and Humanity Has Declined without picking up a thing or two—but a surprising amount of D-Frag’s charm comes just from paying attention to the basics: solid characters, fun interactions, proper jokes. For once the male cast is roughly the same size as the female cast, and just as importantly, roughly equal in colorfulness. The shanghaied boy is Kenji Kazama, a would-be punk who is just too decent and loyal to live up to his delinquent's ambitions. His friends are a mohawked midget and a towering pillar of sunglassed calm. As for the club—the Game Creation Club—it turns out to be a nest of adorable vipers.
The show gets a lot of mileage from the contrast between Kenji's scary-on-the-outside gang and club president Roka's scary-on-the-inside bijosho soldiers. Especially brilliant are the club-member's fantasy-inspired specialties (water, lightning, earth, darkness), which in actuality are waterboarding, Tasers, dirty fists, and CIA-styled rendition. All with a pretty smile. Comedy novice Seiki Sugawara overplays Roka's SD cuteness and is generally too mundane a helmsman to match Uezu's work with Seiji Kishi and Takaomi Kanasaki, but when the time comes to slay us, he obliges. Roka's “fire” magic, and its follow-up the “darkness” magic, are downright lethal. He also makes the romantic tension between tiny Roka and big ol’ Kenji surprisingly plausible. Now that might be black magic.
D-Frag! is available streaming at Funimation.com.
Rating: 4 (of 5)
Review: Kenji Kazama and two of his best buds style themselves as the big delinquents at their new school, but Kenji soon realizes that he may be out of his league when he encounter the four girls of the Game Creation Club, who are desperately looking for a new member so they can maintain their club. Each of the girls claims to be an elemental type: the fire type handles fireworks but also tries both moe charms and the powers of darkness when they don't work, the lightning type uses a taser, the water type forces bottles of water on people, and the earth type (who also turns out, frighteningly, to be the Student Council President) is a hard-hitter who plays in the sandbox. They ruthlessly use all means at their disposal to “recuit” Kenji, and even help from the Vice President – an old friend of Kenji's – is not enough to fend them off.
D-Frag seems intent on taking the “stupid, ridiculous and overwrought” approach to being funny; this is the kind of series where close to half of the lines are screamed, things happen at a frenetic pace, and all of the characters are more than a bit bizarre. Surprisingly, it not only works, but works very well, as the first episode is incredibly and consistently funny. The artistry definitely does not make the series into eye candy, so most of the credit goes to the witty writing and expert pacing by first-time director Seiki Sugawara. Kenji also functions well enough as the comparative straight man who want to be a delinquent but looks like he is actually going to be the victim more often than not, and has enough oddballs surrounding him to keep things moving merrily along. The rambunctious closer suggests that even more zaniness is to come, too.
If you're looking for a comedy series to watch this season, this one is by far the best candidate so far.
D-Frag is currently streaming on Funimation.com.
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